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Even though Stephen King hates it, The Shining is considered by many to be the scariest horror movie of all time. It continues to get better with age and has been dissected and analyzed to death (go watch Room 237 and you’ll see what I mean). As a landmark piece of cinema, many horror fans wouldn’t dare dream of it being remade and many horror directors wouldn’t dare try. But after watching Doctor Sleep, I think someone should give it a shot.
Don’t get me wrong, I love The Shining. It has some of Stanley Kubrick’s best work. But The Shining isn’t a perfect movie; its storytelling lacks depth. I think with the right visionary director, it could be remade well for modern audiences and feel more cohesive with Doctor Sleep. Still, to take on a seemingly insurmountable task, you would need a truly outstanding director at the helm. Here are the people who I think could make The Shining truly horrifying.
This choice is practically a given. Mike Flanagan did the next best thing to remaking The Shining and adapted Stephen King’s sequel, Doctor Sleep, into a movie. Not only that, but he did the impossible by honoring Stanley Kubrick’s vision while simultaneously staying faithful to Stephen King’s book. And hey, Stephen King liked it, so that's a good sign.
Mike Flanagan also did a great job adapting Gerald’s Game, another one of Stephen King’s works. So, he seems to understand the author; a challenge many before him have long struggled with. That said, the biggest problem I can see with Mike Flanagan is that he might struggle to step outside Kubrick’s shadow. It's one thing to make Doctor Sleep, and something else to make The Shining your own, but I imagine he'd still stand a good chance.
It might sound strange to tap the director of Pixar’s Toy Story 3 and Coco to remake The Shining. After all, it's doubtful anyone wants Pixar's The Shining. Lee Unkrich, though, has a particular love and passion for The Shining. He saw the movie when he was 12 years old in the theater and remembers wanting to make movies from that point on. Since then, Stanley Kubrick’s style has been a guiding light for Lee Unkrich’s directorial decision making.
If you look closely, Toy Story 3 and Coco have several easter eggs pointing back to The Shining. But even on a deeper level, he made sure everything down to the color of Andy’s shirt had a reason behind it, something inspired by Stanley Kubrick's obsessive attention to detail. On top of all that, the director has his own blog about The Shining. If that’s not devotion, I don’t know what is. All that to say, if someone is going to remake The Shining, perhaps it should be a totally devoted fan like Lee Unkrich.
Since the release of The Lobster, every feature Yorgos Lanthimos has directed has been a critical home run. Moreover, they’ve been increasingly strange, unsettling and surreal in the absolute best way. Not only can he tell a captivating story, but he also has a unique visual style that makes him a solid candidate to make The Shining his own and set it apart from Kubrick's version.
Perhaps The Killing of a Sacred Deer proved this to me the first time I saw it. The mood and tone felt very Kubrickian at times. Following a surgeon who is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice of a boy he's taken under his wing, it's creepy, disturbing and takes its time, finalizing the horror in one insane ending. But, Yorgos Lanthimos isn’t the type of director who does huge studio blockbusters, and The Shining would absolutely be that; so, he might not be a perfect fit. And yet, If he was attached to The Shining remake, I’d be the first in line to see it.
Mandy... need I say more? The bonkers love story-turned-maddened descent into the bowels of revenge and violence has everything in its cinematic tool belt The Shining remake needs. Panos Cosmatos’ visual style is like no other. It's ethereal, stark, bold and weird. These are just a few things that come to mind. But, he also knows how to gradually ratchet up the intensity until you feel like you’re losing your mind. That’s the kind of storytelling The Shining remake needs.
Unfortunately, as far as storytelling goes, Mandy is about as deep as a shot glass. Panos Cosmatos would excel at making The Shining a bizarre visual spectacle like no other, but it’s hard to say if he could improve on the adaptation and the story, which would be a big reason why The Shining should be remade in the first place. That said, if there was an announcement that Panos Cosmatos was remaking The Shining with Nicolas Cage playing Jack Torrence, I'd be all in.
One quick glance at Ari Aster’s resume and you might scoff at the idea of a relatively new and young director trying to remake Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. But, once you watch Hereditary, Ari Aster’s first feature film, you might change your tune. Hereditary is a complex, disturbing and meticulous horror movie that on the surface looks pretty straightforward, but has so many twists and turns that the end will leave you speechless.
Ari Aster’s biggest weakness is in the adaptation of Stephen King’s work. So far he has only written and directed his own movies. It has yet to be seen if he could equally direct someone else’s vision. Nevertheless, if push came to shove, I bet he could do something really special with it.
Guillermo Del Toro
Two-time Academy Award-winning director Guillermo Del Toro knows horror like the back of his hand. From Pan’s Labyrinth to Crimson Peak to The Shape of Water, he’s a proven visionary writer and director that has a unique ability to creep an audience out.
But it’s his work on Crimson Peak that resembles The Shining the most. There are some interesting similarities, namely that it’s about an aspiring author who runs off to a large house that also happens to be haunted. While Crimson Peak is notably Victorian and leans heavily on the macabre, the atmosphere Guillermo Del Toro creates would be an excellent choice to helm a remake of The Shining.
Amy Seimetz has a relatively short directorial resume, but what she lacks in quantity, she makes up for in quality. Her feature debut Sun Don’t Shine highlights her ability to juxtapose a loving relationship with deep underlying tensions that become uncomfortable, violent and terrifying. It’s this grasp of what lies beneath that could play to her favor with a psychological horror like The Shining.
But it’s in her sophomore feature She Dies Tomorrow where she really shows a talent for psychological warfare on the audience. In the movie, the main character, Amy, knows she’s going to die tomorrow, and this paranoid feeling becomes contagious, infecting all her friends around her. Knowing how to use mood and paranoia to scare an audience is exactly what a director remaking The Shining will need, and Amy Seimetz has already shown a skill for it.
Jordan Peele has only written and directed two horror films: Get Out and Us. However, that’s really all he needed to irrevocably change his position from a funnyman on Key and Peele to a master of the horror genre. He now has his hands in a ton of genre projects, including The Twilight Zone, Lovecraft Country and Candyman.
Both Get Out and Us are about as horrifying as they are thought-provoking, playing mind games with the audience well after the credits have rolled. Jordan Peele's clever approach to writing and his deft hand at directing easily makes him a solid contender for taking on such a huge project. He could bring both sophisticated storytelling and striking visuals to The Shining, and throw in some nice layered subtext for good measure.
Jennifer Kent directed The Babadook, which is about as pure of a horror movie as they come. It doesn’t depend on jump scares and cheap tricks to freak out the audience. Instead, she plants a tiny fear of the Babadook in your mind and slowly builds on it until it becomes too crazy and overwhelming to handle.
The Babadook is about a woman whose husband died violently, and she struggles to love her six-year-old son. Over the course of the movie, her son has wild hallucinations of the Babadook, a monster that her son says is coming to kill them. It’s a slow-burn horror that increases the fear like a balloon until it finally pops. This struggle of a mother and son against a villainous enemy feels like a distant relative to The Shining. So it’s not totally out of the question that Jennifer Kent could take on the project and make it just as horrifying, if not more so.
Robert Eggers is also a relative up-and-coming director, but like many of the others on this list, he’s crafted some truly captivating and mind-blowing films. His directorial debut was The Witch back in 2015, and he just recently released The Lighthouse last year. Take one look at Willem Dafoe's crazed face and you might understand why Robert Eggers could tackle a remake of The Shining.
The Witch could be one of the scariest movies of 2015, if not one of the scariest movies of the decade. Similar to The Babadook, it’s a slow-burn horror that puts a lot of weight on atmosphere and gradual tension between the main character, Thomasin, and her devoutly Christian family in 1630 New England. Similarly, The Lighthouse is about two lighthouse keepers in the 1890s New England that gradually go insane on an island. Both movies deal with characters slipping into the mouth of madness and both are just as mind-numbingly horrifying and bizarre. Robert Eggers has a clear talent for telling unique stories in very unique ways. He also excels at driving his characters to the point of lunacy and violence like few others today. Both of these qualities, I’d say, are the perfect combination to tackle Stanley Kubrick's horror masterpiece.
Too often, The Shining feels like a pinnacle that can’t be overcome. There’s no doubt that Stanley Kubrick set a high bar, but we’re living in a time full of visionary filmmakers that have crafted truly bone-shaking horror movies. I think these directors would do a great job remaking The Shining. But what do you think? What director would you want to see tackle the project? Let us know in the poll and comments below!